Written by Guest blogger
This is a guest blog by current student Peter, studying BA (Hons) International Management.
Hello, my name is Peter and I’ve just finished my first year of university. I am studying International Hospitality Management and am an older student aged 26. Being a mature student isn’t always a bad thing… as being slightly older I have found myself to be more self-motivated. My time working has also helped me understand the significance and importance of getting a degree which was the main reason for coming back into education after eight years.
Throughout my time this year I have found understanding my course and completing assignments relatively easy, often starting them as soon as I was given them. The issue I’ve had and always have found is getting adjusted to people. When I first started university I had work commitments in Portsmouth which meant I was travelling between Portsmouth and Bournemouth most days. This commute meant I didn’t really get to know people. But even when I had the opportunity to talk to people I wouldn’t.
My first memory of speaking to someone was on the first Thursday I turned up, not realising the person was in my class. As a rule, I don’t tend to speak to people first, as I need someone to engage with me before I can. In October I realised that something wasn’t quite right in the way I interacted with people. I barely spoke to anyone and although this has been a common pattern throughout my life, it started to become more noticeable. I went to the Additional Learning Support team (ALS) who are based on campus. They are essentially a service that students can use when they need support and it was with this friendly team that I was able to openly speak about some of my concerns. A member of staff issued me with a checklist for myself to complete, to identify the areas of concern. Once this was completed a few days later, I returned the form and a decision was made to investigate things further. The next stage was to have a psychiatrist go through different tests including numeracy, spacial awareness and literacy. From the initial discussion to the psychiatrist appointment it took around a month as well as needing this evidence confirmed by my GP. I was informed at the time that there were other students who had similar problems and it was common to identify these issues at university where there are higher expectations of you.
It was at this point I was informed that I had a condition called Aspergers syndrome. I looked at the autism website to identify the symptoms and problems associated with the condition. In short, the issues aren’t intelligence based, in fact they argue people with the condition can manage well. The problem stemmed from emotional intelligence. The website identified those with the condition find the world to be very overwhelming, explaining issues such as why large crowds would make me feel claustrophobic. The lack of understanding between non sufferers and sufferers can worsen over time if not addressed and it is an invisible condition where small signs are the only clue to having the problem. In my case it was the inability to deal with others which made me look into it. Other problems include being unable to interpret gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, jokes/ sarcasm, vagueness. There is a lack of understanding which makes sufferers appear insensitive, enjoy their own company more and act strangely amongst other people. Sufferers often rely on routines to make them more comfortable, in my case a bedtime of 9pm and waking up at 5am. Lastly people can suffer from being overloaded by their senses, my situation means I can’t tolerate loud noises, so generally avoid pubs, bars and clubs (typical student environments).
I wanted to write this article for anyone who might have a diagnosis and might feel that university isn’t an option for them because of this. Whether you have aspergers, dyspraxia, yslexia or any kind of autism, it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at university. I would argue there hasn’t been a better time to go to university as there is much greater support than ever before!